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Read an extract from Manda Scott’s Any Human Power

Read an extract from Manda Scott’s Any Human Power

As Lan lies dying, she makes a promise that binds her long into the Beyond. A decade later her teenage granddaughter is caught up in an international storm of outrage that unleashes the rage of a whole, failed generation. For one shining fragment of time, the world is with her. But then the backlash begins, and soon she and her family are besieged by the press, facing the all-powerful wrath of the old establishment whose only understanding is power-over, not power-with.

Watching over the growing chaos is Lan, who taught them all to think independently, approach power sceptically and dream with clear intent. She knows that more than one generation’s hopes are on the line.


It was a bruised and battered family that gathered again in the attic near dusk.

In this, as in so much else just now, there was a clear generational divide.

Connor was by far the oldest, and the least perturbed, person in the room: in any room: the upright and breathing proof to the younger generations that not everyone over sixty was trying to destroy their future.

He didn’t have to say he’d seen worse things daily in his younger years; just by his being there, it was clear. Too, he was tactile, and always had been. He dispensed passing hugs frequently and at random and everyone was softer when they came away.

Even a touch on a shoulder was enough for Maddie’s mouth to relax from the clamped-tight line into which it had been pressed. I had never thought of her as particularly stiff upper-lipped, but on the day the fallout began she was its living embodiment, holding together by sheer force of will when everyone knew that if she let go once, the domino effect was going to carry the whole family with her. In word and walk, she trod with the care of someone crossing a minefield carrying the last child in all the world in her arms.

The rest of the family took her as their example. The laughter was too brittle and the smiles too thin, but when people wept, they did so silently and nobody hurled mugs at the wall, or trashed the computers, or vomited into the wastebins.

Instead, they all created Very Important Things to Do with no gaps to take stock. Finn, for instance, was running half a dozen Grey Ghost streams from his phone, plus one down to Mo Bakar’s Shaolin house in the village.

Towards evening, reading from this, he said, ‘Heads up, people. Candra says the paparazzi are on the hunt in the village. Pretty much everyone is stonewalling, but it’s only a matter of time before they find the track up to the farm. We need to lock the gates and be ready to sue for trespass.’

Candra was Mo’s most senior student after Finn, and wholly reliable: nobody was going to question the accuracy of this. ‘How many?’ Maddie asked, faintly. Her shoulders tightened, as if a new burden had draped itself across them. Her fire was muddy and muted.

Finn shrugged. ‘Assume the entire pack. Think Princess Diana being chased down a tunnel in Paris and multiply by two orders of magnitude because we’re within reach of London. Also, we’re not royalty so they have fewer constraints.’

‘Nye?’ Eriq asked, ‘Will the law hold them?’

‘Not a chance.’ Niall had pulled his hair back and tied it up with one of Kaitlyn’s magenta and pink phone cord hair ties. He looked older, more professional: angrier. ‘The police never get between the press pack and its quarry. They might if it was Radical FM doorstepping a government minister, but short of that, it’s not in their job description. If Grandad could magic up half a dozen hungry Rottweilers it might work.’ He made big eyes at Connor, ‘You’re the dog-lover. How about it?’

Connor’s grin was positively wicked. ‘It would be my pleasure, now. Just say the word and—’ His head snapped to the window. He scythed his arms out wide and flat. ‘Down! Everyone! Now!’

This was a Connor none of us had heard. Without hesitation, the entire family flung themselves face to the floor. They were taking their second breaths, ready to ask what was happening, when a belly-deep thrum shook the building.

‘Helicopter.’ Connor’s face was lean and lined, his gaze leaden. ‘Lynx. They’re old. Cheap to hire.’

He had lived through the Troubles. I watched the realisation of this ripple round the room and I don’t think I was alone in wondering what he’d seen and done there.

Risking his grandfather’s wrath, Finn rolled over and typed into his phone. A text chimed swiftly back. He nodded, ‘Media’, and held up the screen so that the rest of the family could see the newschannel logo on the helicopter’s side. From the angle, the image had been taken from the village, down by Mo’s place: Candra again. ‘They’ll guide the press pack in.’

‘It’s nearly dark,’ Kirsten said. ‘Maybe they won’t come tonight?’

‘They will,’ Eriq said. ‘There’s a tow-chain in the shed I can use to lock the gates. It’ll buy us some time.’

Any Human Power by Manda Scott is published by September Publishing on 30 May 2024

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